HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

A Nation Free of Disparities in Health and Health Care

Introduction and Background

“It is time to refocus, reinforce, and repeat the message that health disparities exist and that health equity benefits everyone.” – Kathleen G. Sebelius, Secretary, Health & Human Services

Medical advances and new technologies have provided people in America with the potential for longer, healthier lives more than ever before. However, persistent and well-documented health disparities exist between different racial and ethnic populations and health equity remains elusive. Health disparities — differences in health outcomes that are closely linked with social, economic, and environmental disadvantage — are often driven by the social conditions in which individuals live, learn, work and play. This document provides a brief overview of racial and ethnic health disparities and unveils a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities (“HHS Disparities Action Plan”).

The HHS Disparities Action Plan complements the 2011 National Stakeholder Strategy for Achieving Health Equity, a product of the National Partnership for Action (“NPA Stakeholder Strategy”). The NPA Stakeholder Strategy reflects the commitment of thousands of individuals across the country in almost every sector. It resulted from a public-private collaboration that solicited broad community input with the assistance of state and local government and Federal agencies. The NPA Stakeholder Strategy proposes a comprehensive, community-driven approach to reduce health disparities in the U.S. and achieve health equity through collaboration and synergy. Now, this first-ever HHS Disparities Action Plan and the NPA Stakeholder Strategy can be used together to coordinate action that will effectively address racial and ethnic health disparities across the country. Furthermore, the HHS Disparities Action Plan builds on national health disparities’ goals and objectives recently unveiled in Healthy People 2020, and leverages key provisions of the Affordable Care Act and other cutting-edge HHS initiatives.

With the HHS Disparities Action Plan, the Department commits to continuously assessing the impact of all policies and programs on racial and ethnic health disparities. Furthermore, the Department can now promote integrated approaches, evidence-based programs and best practices to reduce these disparities. Together, the HHS Disparities Action Plan and the NPA Stakeholder Strategy provide strong and visible national direction for leadership among public and private partners. While the Department respects and recognizes the critical roles other Federal departments play in reducing health disparities, this action plan focuses on HHS initiatives.

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